Although it is gloomy and rainy out, we rejoice in this day that God has made!
A song to pick you up this afternoon:
Our scripture readings for today come from Ezekiel 37:1-14 and John 11:1-45 (see attached readings). The passage from Ezekiel is the story of the "dry bones," the song we used to sing when we were younger - "Dem bones, dem bones." The reading from John is the familiar story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. Both stories involve bringing something/someone who was dead back to life.
God takes the prophet Ezekiel to a valley full of dry bones, a battlefield perhaps, and asks him - "Can these bones live?" Quite the question! Of course, any sane person looking at a field full of bones will certainly say, "Yeah, right! There's no way these old, dried out things are ever going to live again! God, you must be crazy!" But we know better, don't we. And so did Ezekiel. He replies, "O Lord God, you know." What seems impossible to our common sense is always possible with God. As the story continues, Ezekiel prophecies over the bones; not only do they join together again, but the muscles and skin appear as they once did. Again, Ezekiel prophecies over the now-reattached skeletons and God breathes into them from the winds of the earth. What was once a valley of dry bones has become a valley of living, breathing people; they were resurrected through the power and command of Yahweh God.
In the story from John 11, Jesus is out wandering the countryside with his disciples and followers when he gets word that his good friend Lazarus was near death. Instead of heading to him immediately, Jesus waits. By the time he and the disciples arrive, Lazarus had been dead four days. Four days! Not quite the dry bones of Ezekiel, but still Mary and Martha, Lazarus' sisters, wondered what took Jesus so long to get there. See, if Jesus had come when they asked him to, he could have healed Lazarus, but now, what's the point. Lazarus is dead; Jesus can't heal him now. But as we saw in the dry bones story from Ezekiel, God can do amazing things when all we see are impossibilities! Jesus goes to the tomb and calls Lazarus' name. I can't imagine what the crowd and his sisters were thinking - Jesus is crazy, calling out to a dead man! He must be deep in grief, crying and weeping. Beyond all human possibilities, though, Lazarus comes walking out of the tomb, as if he had only been taking a nap. A dead man was resurrected through the power and command of God in Jesus Christ!
Death, dry bones, impossibilities - not exactly a pick-me-up message for today, is it? Yet it is! Both of these stories foreshadow what Jesus will shortly go through in the coming weeks: his own death and resurrection. But we sit back and think, "Jesus rose again almost 2000 years ago. That's history. And Ezekiel, who knows if that actually happened. He probably dreamed it. People don't die and then rise again today. That's impossible!" But aren't we living through that today in this situation with CoVID-19? Granted, we are most likely not going to see dead people come back to life, but look at the larger picture of society. We are isolated and quarantined, not socializing, not partying, not gathering for anything. Pardon the expression, but it's like we have died as a community; we are disjointed and dry like the bones in Ezekiel's valley. There is no life, no community. And like Mary and Martha, we pray and we pray; we plead with God to come and heal us. We do believe and we know that God hears us, but we aren't seeing anything happening around us. Our outlook is bleak and seems to be getting bleaker the longer we go. It's going to be impossible to get out of this situation. As Jesus tells his disciples and followers, " What is impossible for mortals is possible for God" (Luke 18:27). Ezekiel saw a valley of dry bones and thought it was impossible! Mary and Martha, the disciples and the crowd that had gathered saw a dead man and thought it was impossible! God has a way of making the impossible possible. There are many messages we can take from these two stories, but perhaps one of the most important is that nothing is impossible with God's power. As we look at our situation, know that nothing is impossible for God. There is a "way out" and Jesus Christ is that way. Things may not look good right now, but we will get through this. We rely on God's power and strength; we build our hope on Jesus Christ. We trust that God will lead us and heal us; we may be doing things the "way we used to,' but I have a feeling those dry bones and Lazarus didn't do things as they had always done, either. As we continue and go forward into whatever our communities are going to look and act like, we have a faith that is grounded in the resurrected Jesus Christ, trusting that God will lead us through and will do what looks impossible to us. Jesus is our Rock and our Hope; on that we stand.
Attached above are the lyrics to two hymns, along with the videos here. Feel free to sing along or to just read and pray the words. (Some of the lyrics may be different than what's printed, but I think you'll enjoy the videos anyway.)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PY2jcRKEnZ4 (Jesus Is A Rock in a Weary Land)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QGm_mR6enw0 (Hope of the World)
God of all consolation and compassion,
your Son comforted the grieving sisters, Martha and Mary;
your breath alone brings life
to dry bones and weary souls.
Pour out your Spirit upon us,
that we may face despair and death
with the hope of resurrection
and faith in the One
who called Lazarus forth from the grave. Amen.
Blessings, and may God keep you all till we meet again.